It is very important to know the signs of a stroke because they happen quickly and can be difficult to recognize. However, by learning how to recognize these symptoms before a stroke occurs and to call 9-1-1 as quickly as possible, the likelihood of survival and minimal brain damage dramatically increases. It is also important to emphasize that all of these symptoms are sudden and occur very quickly. The most common way of learning them is using the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.
A sudden loss of balance is very common in stroke. Ask the person to walk in a straight line for 3 steps. If they cannot achieve this, it is possible that they are having a stroke.
A sudden loss of vision or blurred vision is very common in stroke. Hold up any number of fingers on one hand and ask the person to tell you how many fingers you are holding up. If they cannot do this reliably, it is possible that they are having a stroke.
This means that one side of the face sinks down lower than the lower. If you suspect that this may be happening, ask the person to smile. If their smile is suddenly lopsided or uneven, this is a very common sign that this person is having a stroke.
If you suspect that this is happening, ask the person to raise both of their arms. If one of the arms falls down and cannot be kept raised, this is a sign that this person is having a stroke.
If you suspect this is happening, ask the person to repeat a very simple sentence like "My shirt is red." If their speech seems slurred or they cannot repeat the sentence properly, this is a sign that this person is having a stroke.
Time to call 911
If you see any one or more of these symptoms, call 9-1-1 as quickly as possible. A very common saying is "Time is brain," meaning that the quicker you call 9-1-1, the less brain damage will occur.
If the person faints after you call 911, what can I do before the paramedics arrive?
If you believe a person has fainted, check for a pulse first by putting two fingers on the crevice in the neck or on the wrist. If you cannot feel one, perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) by placing both hands firmly in the center of the chest and do 30 chest compressions. If you would like to read a great guide on how to perform CPR effectively, here is a nice guide.
While these are the main symptoms of a stroke, there are other, less common symptoms to look for that all happen suddenly. In addition to sudden weakness on one side, a sudden numbness, especially if it happens on one side, is an indication of stroke. Other indications are sudden confusion and severe headaches .
While the majority of stroke symptoms are the same in both men and women, there are certain signs of a stroke that only appear in women. Like the other symptoms, they are often quite subtle and appear unexpectedly.
When having a stroke, women can feel a general weakness all throughout the body, but typically this weakness is either felt on the left or the right side. Another symptom is fatigue. Now, it is possible that these two symptoms come from many other things. The important thing to remember is that these two signs indicate that a stroke may be happening when they occur suddenly and without another known cause. The final additional symptoms are nausea and/or vomiting as well as sudden disorientation and confusion .
This video done by the American Stroke Association does a good job of summarizing all signs of stroke that one should be able to recognize. Just remember the acronym B.E. F.A.S.T.!